Living in a pandemic world is affecting the mental health of people of all ages. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found almost half (45%) of American adults felt their mental health was negatively affected by worrying about COVID-19. And then just as we were inching forward and able to breathe again, a second/third wave pulled us right back to where we started, doubling our fears.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Some have physical symptoms, while others feel it mentally and emotionally. Many people experience both, and it impacts their ability to function in day to day life. It feels like there is no escape from the uncertainty happening around us and the constant media reports only seem to reaffirm our fears.
There Was a Time When
A year ago, we didn’t say things like, “practice social distancing” or “remember to bring your mask.” We hadn’t associated the phrase “new normal” with a global pandemic, and we didn’t worry about the people we love dying without us being there to hold their hand.
Now, caution and compliance have become the reality of everyday life, redefining what it means to connect. We shelter in place in front of our computer monitors, doing our best to enjoy each other’s company from a distance. And above all, as we hunker down at home, we conserve our most precious resource, toilet paper.
The pandemic’s sudden invasion into our lives comes at a high cost. We feel uncertain, fearful, and anxious. Overwhelmed by isolation, many feel lost and completely alone. For others, feelings of anxiety and panic drop in out of the blue.
It is normal to have these feelings and experience them, but it is also up to us to work through them by tapping into our resilience and available support systems.
How to Recognize Anxiety
It is essential to recognize the symptoms of anxiety, so you can quickly identify them among friends and family and yourself and get help right away.
Signs of Anxiety
- Excessive worry and apprehension about many concerns such as finances, health problems, global pandemics, and other things generally out of one’s control
- Feeling like something terrible is going to happen
- Persistent feeling of being overwhelmed and worried
- Restlessness and irritability
- Sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, appetite changes, and always feeling on edge
- Unexplained fear and distress
Most of us are dealing with some form of stress and anxiety today as we wonder if life will ever return to the “old normal,” especially as we face a second wave of shut downs. Even then, will things be the same as they were? Some people feel a loss and grieve a way of life they believe is gone forever.
Embracing change is a mindset we have to develop, and it is a coping mechanism for dealing with things we cannot control. Accepting changes in the way we live our lives and finding strategies to adapt will help us get through life with less anxiety.
How to “Hang in There”
Changes mean we make adjustments. Global changes mean we develop a coping mindset, make sacrifices and dig deep to pull kindness from the throes of frustration. Cold weather means we are stuck inside together. A little compassion can save the day.
The Worry Cure, by Dr. Robert Leahy, states that we must put things in perspective to win the war against COVID-19. Look at the big picture and see the situation “through a lens of acceptance.” Accepting the struggles we face helps us develop skills to address and overcome them.
- Lower your expectations - normalize your experiences. For example, when the kids are fighting, and the house is a mess, and you are trying to work, rather than get upset about it, think, “this is what I would expect a pandemic to look like.” Be ok with changes and imperfections. They build character.
- Focus on what you can do - not what you can’t. It isn’t so terrible to miss a night at the club or an afternoon movie. Recreate a theatre in your home, spend time on a hobby, go for a walk. Seeing what is possible instead of what isn’t brings possibilities you might not have seen otherwise
- Be Kind - Let the little things go and be polite. Compassion goes a long way when someone is having a bad day.
- View the situation as a chapter in a book – This strategy is adopted from Dr. Leahy’s book. He says books have a beginning, an end, and chapters in the middle. Not all chapters bring smiles. Some are difficult. But the characters move on and through until they get to the other side. This chapter is what you make it.
- Ask for help – Talk to someone. You are not alone in your struggle. Family, friends, mental health professionals, and clergy members are all willing listeners.
What you don’t have to do is live this new normal by yourself. Talking through fear and anxiety is a great way to reduce it and make it manageable. For other tips on how to cope with COVID now that the weather is chilly, read 5 Tips to Conquer Covid in the Cold
We rarely retain information (much less practice it) the first time we read it. Bookmark this article or print it and share it with your support system. Help each other practice the few techniques listed here. We are, after all, in this together.
Now more than ever, your employees need emotional support and resources. The pandemic has created a whole new set of physical, financial and emotional stressors that have woven their way into the home and workplace.
Hundreds of organizations support their employees through The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Investing in the right EAP to support your employees before, during and after they face adverse events will help them and help you. Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Combining years of clinical experience and the formation of a meaningful partnership with an organization’s human resources department, Ulliance is among the best EAP providers, and our experts can tailor recommendations for a variety of work\life circumstances.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!